Meet Fr. Thomas Lawson OP
Date of Ordination: July 2, 1973
Fr Thomas Lawson OP was born in Ireland and baptised on the feast of St Thomas Aquinas (Jan 28), a renowned Dominican and a Doctor of the Church. Thus began the journey which would lead him to eventually become a member of the Dominican Order.
He is the youngest of four children born to James and Mary Alice. Religion was a focal point for the family. Mr Lawson attended Mass daily on his way to work and took his children every evening to the Dominican church for Rosary and Benediction. This atmosphere nurtured in them a deep love for their Catholic faith.
Fr Tom attended a Dominican primary school and went on to a secondary school run by the De La Salle Order (French). He had an avid interest in accountancy and a knack for mental calculations. As a student he worked on Saturdays in the office of a Turf Accountant. Because of his ability, accountancy was the expected career path for him to take, but at the age of 18, Fr Tom responded to the call of the priesthood.
Having been spiritually fed by the Dominicans in church and at school, it was natural that he chose to join this Order. He found the monastic setting and community living of the Dominicans appealing. With the wholehearted support of his parents and family, Fr Tom entered the Dominican House of Studies in Dublin, which is affiliated to the University of St Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome. It was 1966 and 10 men entered the Dominican Priory that year.
After his ordination, Fr Tom was appointed Chaplain to a government secondary school in Ireland where he taught Religion and Civics for seven years. He had been influenced by many Irish Dominicans who had worked in Trinidad and shared their experiences with him. At the age of 33 he volunteered to come here. He arrived on October 15, 1981 and after spending time as assistant to the parish priest of St Anthony’s in Petit Valley, he became the parish priest there from 1983 to 1988. He then served as parish priest in St Joseph until 1994 at which time Fr Tom was appointed to St Finbar’s parish. He undertook the responsibilities and challenges of Regional Prior for the Dominicans from 1998 to 2006.
Fr Tom believes that spending time here, in the service of God’s people, has been a great privilege. As a beneficiary of God’s love, he is happy to bring hope and encouragement to others and most importantly, to offer the gift of the Eucharist to the Faithful. He has always willingly embraced the path God has chosen for him and says, “It is the strength of the Sacrament of Priesthood which has kept me focussed and grounded.”
Through his ministry in various communities Fr Tom has had the opportunity of meeting first-hand the people he had always heard about from childhood. As a young boy in the early 1950s, every week he was encouraged to give some of his weekly allowance to the Dominican Missions in a far off place called Trinidad. He would learn many years later that this donation assisted Fr Eugene Delahunt to build the Paramin RC School as well as other Dominican priests who were involved in projects all over the country. What he did not know was that one day he would serve as a Dominican in the island that the Irish so freely supported. He was, and still is, touched by the genuine hospitality and caring nature of so many as is his mother, now 94, whose Irish charm has won the hearts of many parishioners over the years. He has great faith in the potential of the people of Trinidad and a real sense of belonging to this country. So much so, that a few years ago he applied for citizenship status and now holds a Trinidad and Tobago passport.
Twenty-eight years after leaving his homeland, he is grateful to God for the gift of being able to live and work among the people of Trinidad. Fr Tom says, “The people of this nation have helped me deepen my understanding of my priesthood in a very tangible way, by their warmth and deep faith.”